“I personally need the right soundtrack for every part of my day”…and that’s why he chose Sound Identity!
Romano Brida, originally from Catania, was a top manager with a passion for vintage cars. But you probably know him better as the person who brought the American-style barber shop to Italy: Bullfrog – Modern Electric Barber was established here in Milan in 2013.
Sound Identity:Your new life with Bullfrog was both an internal and external rebirth (there are still some photos of you in your pre-Bullfrog days online). How important is it to express your internal self externally?
Romano Brida:Every contest has its rules of engagement: behaviour, language, clothing. My former professional life was definitely very intense and great fun, it dictated a clear dress-code that was absolutely part of the role: formal but with countless design details connected to the materials used and the history of clothes (an obvious example is the history of the tie and the different ways of tying it). I liked my old look, but there is no doubt that with Bullfrog I have had the chance to explore other environments and materials that were only open to me in my free time before. I can guarantee that my current look is far more articulated and complex than the old one, and it also really expresses my curiosity for the history and nature of objects.
Credits: EUGENIO MARONGIU
Romano Brida. Credits: EUGENIO MARONGIU
Sound Identity: What effect have your design choices, the old American style from the Thirties and the gentlemen’s club mood had on Bullfrog’s success?
Romano Brida:Bullfrog was born as part of my sabbatical year with a totally Anglo-Saxon focus: a break in your career with the aim of dedicating yourself to a particular activity other than work or to fulfil a dream (cit. Wikipedia). I can assure you that the project started as an experiment and a way to develop ideas and passions that I have always had. The design was therefore part of the whole thing because it was connected to my passions (cars, music, history, architecture, etc.).What initially struck the clients was how every single element in a room of 23m2 (the first Bullfrog barber shop on Via Thaon di Revel 3, Milan) was authentic and went together perfectly: the people, the furnishings, the music, the chit-chat. It was like going over to an old friend’s house.
Romano Brida:Music had a fundamental part in the project, reflecting the fundamental role it has in my life. I cannot remember a single period of my existence that wasn’t marked by a group or a song. I grew up in the musical subculture of the Eighties, in a city where it was quite common to play in a band (Catania) and I personally need the right soundtrack for every part of my day. Bullfrog was the perfect stage to showcase a lot of my memories.
Sound Identity: Bullfrog has become a well-known and recognisable brand, which is also thanks to your social communication. It is common to see still life shots featuring a musical component on your Instagram, almost always different vinyl. What kind of added value does that bring?
Romano Brida:The power of social media ( Instagram in particular) was one of the driving forces behind communication for the project: it was almost natural for me to dig out the vinyl that I have treasured for yeas to present them, share them and contextualise them with elements of fashion. Music is often experienced with an almost tribal sense of belonging through objects (T-shirts, shoes, etc.). This is yet another game that I love, the belonging connoted by the music-object relationship offers an insight into how and why certain musical genres developed (a typical example is the relationship between “reggae and ska” or “Jamaican rude boys and skinheads” in late Sixties London).
Sound Identity: After the success with Bullfrog, the collaboration with WOMO, a book and the Academy, what are your plans for the future?
Romano Brida: We are developing a project to expand the Bullfrog network to other Italian cities and abroad this year. I have always developed Bullfrog to be expandable, both in terms of the shop and the development of skills… so the idea of bringing other people on board for this project is a great victory for me.
Bullfrog team. Credits: EUGENIO MARONGIU
Sound Identity: What track gets you psyched up?
Romano Brida:It depends on the day and what I have to do. I have always loved Irish folk punk, it’s a genre that gives me a certain energy (perhaps because the Irish and Sicilian shave various things in common: Catholicism, a love for parties and living on an island).
Cover image Bullfrog via Dante, Milano. Credits: EUGENIO MARONGIU